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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The Milwaukee Bucks are on the cusp of announcing the long-delayed naming rights deal for their new $524 million basketball arena, one of the team's owners said.
"It's very close — imminent is what I would say is probably the word," Wes Edens said in an interview.
"It's a company that's local. It's got a national presence," Edens said, declining to discuss more details about the business that will be the Bucks' most important partner for years to come.
"We have been exchanging contracts. There are really no open issues," he said.
Will it be the Northwestern Mutual arena? That's an important local company that has yet to announce its plans with the team. Or will an already-committed sponsor such as BMO Harris Bank upgrade to a higher-profile package?
"I can't play 20 questions," Edens said. "It would be a disservice to the whole process."
The Bucks are expected to put on a full-court press and crank up the excitement for the arena once their season ends. That includes the naming rights announcement, other local sponsorships as well as a continued push for season-ticket sales.
The naming rights deal is the most important part of the arena project since the Bucks' owners secured a $250 million public financing deal.
The Bucks keep the money from the naming rights — and all other revenue generated at the arena — as part of their agreement to maintain the facility once they take occupancy. The arena is expected to open in late summer.
Several key businesses either based here or with large local presences have joined the Bucks as "founding partners" — the most important partnership for the new arena announced to date. They include Johnson Controls, MillerCoors, Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin and BMO Harris Bank.
Edens and fellow New York billionaire Marc Lasry bought the Bucks in 2014 from Sen. Herb Kohl for $550 million. The team is now valued at more than $1 billion.
The Bucks initially set a naming rights sponsorship goal of $7 million to $10 million a year for up to 20 years.
Since last summer, there were several indications that the Bucks were close to a deal. But it didn't happen, leading some experts to say the price or time commitment was too high.
Bucks President Peter Feigin last fall and winter made numerous national media appearances and talked up the arena and the naming rights opportunity.
That campaign included a glowing profile of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo that aired in late March.
Edens downplayed the naming rights delays, and said he was satisfied with the price and the partner.
"There really hasn't been a lot of drama in the whole process," he said.
"I haven't felt a particular amount of angst to be honest. Of course it's a big element for us. We want to put it to bed. I'm feeling good."
He declined to discuss price or the length of the deal.
"We're not only happy with the price but we think it's a very high-quality partner who we think really represents well — a big employer; we think there's a lot of real positives in terms of all the contextual aspects of the partnership that we think are terrific."
Edens noted that other sponsorships are available, such as for the entertainment block outside the arena and the "panorama club," a gathering area high above the eastern end of the seating bowl.
"We have many partners that have really stepped up so there's been a ton of participation locally, but there will only be one name on the building," he said.
Asked if he thought the choice of arena naming rights partner would resonate with Milwaukee residents, Edens said he had no doubt.
"I think so, yes."